This year, instead of being tied to a curriculum, I am focusing on the five essential literacy activities: RRWWT.

Side note: A lot of the early literacy and word study work ideas that I use come from Words Their Way. They have a solid, research backed approach to reading, writing, and spelling. I’ve used it with my ELLs in secondary schools, the beginning sound and concept sorts with my preschoolers, and I’ve tapped into the idea of concept sorts and word sorts with my French students in the classroom.)

Just what the heck is RRWWT, though? The acronym stands for Read to, Read with, Write with, Word Study, and Talk with.

Read to

This is exactly what it sounds like – I read to Mon Coeur (and Mon Amour). I read new and themed books and stories. This month we are exploring apples and animal migration. Over the course of the month, I’ll probably reread our favorites between 3-5 times. We read all the time. At the breakfast table, during bath time, in the morning lull, at lunchtime, at bath time, at bed time…Today we started about three stories on apples, although we didn’t finish them – they were a little long. We’ll get back around to them later. It’s nice to have a no pressure, informal way to discover these books and then get back around to them later when we have more time.

Resources I’ve found and like to reference when choosing books by author or theme: Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt, and The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease. Both have excellent book lists with classic authors. Gladys’ book lists are organized by age and listed out by author. Jim’s book has compelling data to prove just how powerful it is to read books to children – of any age! His treasury of read-aloud books notes books that are related, so you could compile a themes list together easily.

Read with

For read with, I am having MC join me in reading, and even read on her own. The readings I choose for this portion are Mother Goose rhymes, simple poems & French comptines. Some come direct from the WTW book, but most I source. Here, I am focusing on modeling reading by pointing to each word as I say it – I track the words I say, and then MC will do the same. We read a passage a day usually, and it’s not more than a few lines. We will reread the same passage over and over until she reads it with accurate tracking and reading. Some of her “reading” is memorized right now, and that’s okay! She is learning that sounds come together to make words, and that words come together to make sentences. She is noting the punctuation within a sentence and asks about the “mystery” (question mark) when she sees it!

Write with

This is an opportunity to model the writing process. I am the one writing, and the focus is on the content, not on MC’s manuscript. We do a lot of dictated stories right now. I will ask MC a question to get her started, and then I write exactly what she says. Sometimes I help guide her back to topics as needed.

These stories are so valuable for helping her to read. Much like the first word she learned to read and write was her name, these stories are personal to her. The words in the story are from her vocabulary, helping her to recognize the same when I ask her to go back and read.

Eventually, I will do some daily recaps, or stories about our day to model the writing process.

For manuscript practice, she has a composition notebook she uses as like a doodle book – I will write one letter for focus in upper and lower case as well as script in various sizes on one page in pencil, and she will choose a marker to trace the same letters. I also still focus on just making markings, like circles, zig zag lines, loop-de-loos, etc. Straight, curved, and angled lines all work together to make letters, and instead of having her practice to make perfect letters in repetition, we work with lines in isolation and then bring them together later.

Word Study

I teach MC directly for the word study portion. For any new concept, I will start with direct instruction, which just means that I will do the sort, thinking out loud and sorting as I go. I will sound out the words and place emphasis where our focus is – beginning, ending, or medial sounds.

Other times when we are reviewing a concept or sort, we work together to discern between beginning and ending sounds, rhymes, and syllables. We sort pictures from WTW books that are specifically organized for those themes.

Last week we sorted pictures by their beginning sounds – M, S, B or R. MC already did this in preschool with me last year. So this time, we are sorting, and gluing pictures one beginning sound per page, and she is identifying and telling me the letter that makes the beginning and ending sound. She has also tried to identify the middle/vowel sound and has done fairly well at this! I have been modeling sounding out the words and writing the letters in each word.

You may recognize these sorts from your child’s homework – ever seen what sounds like gibberish – CVC, CVCE, CVVC, oddball ? Just what exactly could that mean you may have wondered? That’s word study, WTW style. I appreciate that instead of listing rules, there are concrete words to serve as examples. The child’s task is to read words and sort by spelling patterns (consonant/vowel patterns) and also by the sound. It gives space for those exceptions to the spelling/pronunciation rules. As I continue to explain…it seems like this is another post for another day.

Talk with (conversations!)

Girl can talk. And ask questions. Retell stories. And create new ones based on stories we’ve read. New vocabulary can come from conversations, and with the amount of questions she has just from daily life, along with questions, comments, or observations that she has while reading a book, it provides a window into her thinking and a springboard for continued conversation.

Randomly, driving down the road, she recently asked me, “What is “ambush”?” To which I responded, “It’s a surprise attack. Typically when we are talking about war. Where did you hear this word?” “Mulan.” “Okay!”

Two weeks later, she asked, “What is “wounded”?” “It means hurt, or injured. We usually use wounded though when we are talking about warriors getting hurt. Where did you hear this word?” “Mulan.” “Gotcha! (yes you guessed it already, but my memory is not what it was, and I needed a reminder that it came from that movie we watched a month ago.)”


Homeschool so far…

Word study notebook and work

It’s September and I feel like it’s the new year. New planners, new composition notebooks, new materials…and I love it! How is your back to school going?

The idea for this post is inspired by the curiosity of friends and family who want to know more about our homeschooling experience. Homeschooling is like the distant cousin who rarely visits, but everyone has heard about and has questions, observations, and opinions!

I’m going to take a moment to compliment myself. Quite often, people tell me how intelligent Mon Cœur is…and she hasn’t ever stepped foot into a classroom. Not a brick and mortar one. The world has been her classroom, and Chouchou and I have been her teachers.

Parents are their child’s first teachers. I am sure someone famous with higher credentials than me has been quoted saying something very similar…I could search for a long time, but here’s a good one:

“The home is the child’s first school, the parent is the child’s first teacher, and reading is the child’s first subject.”

Barbara Bush

Now that MC is to begin formal education in a traditional school setting, and I have chosen to homeschool…some of these same people wonder…How’s it going??, Have you started yet??, What about Mon Amour (my 22 month old son)?? Read on for the answers to these questions and more.

How’s homeschool going?

Homeschool is going well! We read a lot. We do some workbooks when she feels like it (beginning letter sounds/letter formation, math, French), and we do a lot of activities and have conversations around her interests. She wanted to watch Mulan and Moana, so I let her check out the movies, and then I gathered our geography books, encyclopedia, and then gleaned the library stacks for children’s literature pertaining to China, Mulan (the historical person), Pacific Islands.

I take notes about what is interesting to her, the questions she asks me, and what we’ve done. I’m following her lead a lot right now because I love her curiosity, and she’s always asking questions!

She learned a new word – desire – just from reading the Mulan picture book and asking, “What does that mean?” She has asked about many other words too, that she encounters in readings and read alouds. It thrills me that she is listening, picking out new words, and asking about their meaning.

What curriculum are you using?

I looked at so many different curriculums at the homeschool conference, and I’ve decided that for this year, since MC is in kindergarten, we can have a year of grace and just get our feet wet figuring out what we’re doing.

Curriculums are not cheap. I have a real fear of buying one and it not working with our family. The curriculum that I prefer is expensive…it’s fabulous and expensive.

So this year, for kindergarten, I am focusing on the five essential literacy activities: RRWWT.

Read to (new/themed books and stories )

Read with (shared reading/rereads with MC)

Write with (model the writing process)

Word Study (direct instruction – discover and discern between beginning and ending sounds, rhymes, alliteration, etc)

Talk with (conversations!)

For math, I have a few different books that I am trying. I’ll keep you posted on this part. For now, we’ve been completing puzzles, telling time, playing dominoes, adding zero and adding one. We’ve estimated, categorized, and compared.

Our themes for September are apples and animal migration. I used the library’s online catalog and the help of librarians to pull books in these themes and we’ll read and write about these books and incorporate math, science, and history into these themes. We are so excited! MC is most excited to make applesauce, and I am looking forward to apple picking, apple stamp art, and an apple volcano science experiment.

Read more about the apple and pumpkin activities we’ve done in the past.

What’s your schedule?

We have lots of opportunities to learn throughout the day. I gauge MC’s temperament each day to see how much we want to pack into the hour I usually use while MA naps in the morning. Sometimes it’s a lot, other days it’s minimal. I don’t stress too much, because even though we do “homeschool” during that hour window, we are still doing a lot of real world work and learning throughout the day. We read every day, typically during meals, in the afternoon and at bedtime. We take the most random life events (harvesting figs) to pack in math. I have a routine I follow that helps keep things predictable for the kids and includes lots of wiggle room (literally!).

What about Mon Amour?

We do the bulk of our homeschool while MA takes his morning nap. Yes, he’s 22 months and still takes his nap. What luck! I will not rob him of his needed rest, nor MC of her special time with me learning. For the rest of the day, morning activities, sensory, and songs and reading, he’s right in the mix, wanting to do and learn and dance and play.

How do you keep track of what you do?

For now, I have four composition notebooks going: a learning log, a reading log, word study, and math. I may decide to combine and use less notebooks to keep notes in the future. For now, I like having a place to note all of the books we read every day (reading log), what we learn every day (a learning log – more like a checklist with a notes section), simple reading passages, sound sorts, and spelling (word study), and stories, pictures, and math word problems (math).

The idea for the reading log and learning log came to me from a mentor and fellow home school mom. I love how it’s simple and it’s concrete. I can always go back to see what we did on a day when I might feel like we didn’t accomplish much…We always do something noteworthy.

I love the word study and math books because it gives MC a springboard for conversation with Chouchou and also reminds her of what we did in a day. We note her successes, which helps guide me where to continue and also what we might want to focus on more. Occasionally, I note the letters and sounds she knows while we play a game or how high she can count and what numbers she recognizes.

Math with the book Blueberries for Sal

As a first year homeschooling mom, I feel confident in what MC has already learned and I’m looking forward to the continued adventure.

Tell me…what are your questions about homeschooling?

And on to the next adventure.

Mon Cœur has officially graduated from preschool, and so now we embark on a new adventure, school at home. Why?


MC is soooo curious. If there is anything I’ve learned this year as a preschool teacher with a class of only 11 kids, kids are curious! And observant! And smart cookies!

Unfortunately, I can not address each little person’s questions and also teach what I have planned. So I can only imagine MC asking all of these great questions to her teachers, and not getting every answer due to time constraints.

I want to encourage her curiosity and observations. I don’t want that squelched. I don’t want her to stop asking questions.

It is so difficult and yet so refreshing to take the time to observe and question with her. This requires some unplugging, some reprioritizing, and some slowing down. And golly, it’s worth it every time to do that. When I take the time to listen to her, I always learn something new about her.


This is a pretty general reason, but we can cover what we need to in less time with just us.

We can have the flexibility to vacation, to go on field trips, or to have a family day on a random Tuesday.

Time is a precious gift, and family is my top priority.

Because I can.

I started to say language and prattle on about how I’d be able to focus more on French…but let’s just simply leave it at… I can. I can do this. I’m qualified, and I believe in myself. That’s a pretty good feeling to have and an essential mindset if I want to be successful. I do. And I can.

In anticipation of Christmas

Christmas Bingo

I have always loved the spirit of Christmas and the opportunities of being together with the friends and family I love. The gifts are lovely expressions of love and thoughtfulness, however it is the intentional quality time spent with those you love that create the memories my future eighty year old self will smile at in retelling a story. I had begun a tradition in 2020 to stretch out Christmas throughout the whole month.

For the past two years, I had wrapped different objects that embody the spirit of Christmas. We had a countdown to Christmas and Mon Cœur enjoyed unwrapping one each day from Dec 1-24. It was nice because it spread the cheer the whole month long, and gave us something to look forward to.

It took a lot of time to wrap the gifts, and some were date specific, and this year it just didn’t fit to countdown to Christmas that way. I received a timely email from Ralphie @simplyonpurpose where she shares a freebie list of different simple holiday activities to complete as a family. This would be the perfect substitute to our countdown

The experiences that create the sweetest memories and the strongest bonds are the simple (and often free!) things we do as a family. And really, the greatest gift of all is TIME.

Ralphie Jacobs @simplyonpurpose

I loved this idea! First I was going to make a jar, and we’d just pick one a day. Then I thought, what if I don’t feel like doing what we picked, or if we pick bake cookies and I don’t have the ingredients? What if ChouChou’s work schedule doesn’t work out to complete an activity with us?

So I ended up creating a big Christmas bingo card that is on our fridge. I cut out red and green trees to go in each square and chose just 16 activities from Ralphie’s list that I knew would be easy enough for our young family to complete. Next I found some gold star stickers for MC to mark off each square as it is completed. Tonight we played catch up – I read each square to her and if it was something we had done, she placed a star on it. It was nice to review all the activities – she has already picked out some new ones to complete in the following week – top of her list? Dance party around the Christmas tree, write a letter to Santa, and a winter nature walk.

I hope you are finding the joy and love in being together with your loved ones this holiday season!

Soul searching, apple picking, and comfort food

Nothing says “Fall” like apples.  Apple crisp, apple pie, apple sauce.

Last week we went apple picking at Carter Mountain, the local favorite apple picking spot.  We thought that we missed our window of opportunity, however they had a really amazing selection of Stayman, Winesap, Granny Smith, Jonagold, and Golden Delicious.  

I feel like in the past year, while caring for Mon Cœur, and now Mon Amour, I have abandoned activities that I want to do – keeping Millie’s Garden updated and planting new flowers, blogging, keeping up with my bullet journal.  And although I know in my heart that I was prioritizing what needed to be taken care of, I also neglected that which was in my soul and needed nourishing.

I took on a new opportunity teaching preschool part time, and I am trying to be the patient parent I am with MC with a whole class of many little humans with a range of needs and emotions.  It has at the best of times, been an amazing experience and taught me so much, and at the worst of times, tried my patience and made me wonder if I am good enough to be their teacher.

I come home and focus on little more than getting dinner on the table and preparing for the next day. My one luxury is that I make coffee so it’s ready to brew the next morning. And I’m always grateful to not have to do anything more than push a button to get that rolling.  

I have let Millie’s garden be consumed by weeds, I didn’t add my asters or mums like I wanted. The daffodil bulbs I purchased back in August are still in the bag out in the shed.  These past couple of days, we have gotten out and MC has helped trim up some plants, dead head some flowers, and clear out some weeds.  Mon Amour has been quite content to relax in the stroller, surprisingly since he is mobile and curious.

I have been tongue tied and unable to type out anything that I would feel of value in this internet of so-much-information.  Looking for a focus, waiting for the right opportunity to jump back in, it’s almost like watching the double dutch ropes circle round, and I’ve been swaying forward and backward watching and waiting, immobile to just try to get in there.

And I haven’t kept track of the beautiful memories with the family and daily gratitudes, which honestly, has made me less grateful and more of a grump.  How horrible is that?  I am working on getting back into the groove. Even if I don’t note it in the book, I acknowledge my gratefulness to myself and we talk about the best part of our day.

All of this rambling and explanation to say… we had an unexpected family day last week, and we pounced on the opportunity to go apple picking.  We really weren’t sure that there would be much of a selection, and I am happy that we were wrong.  I was reminiscing that this time last year, we were at Carter’s Mountain and I was very pregnant with MA.  This year I was wearing him…and when we got home Chou Chou and I compared our baggages: he had a 26 pound ½ bushel box of apples, and I had a healthy, 23 pound 12 month old boy!

It was nice to get out in the fresh air, to be a family, and to pick apples.  We’ve read a book a few times now, and if I ever find a copy, I’ll be snagging it – Applesauce Season by Eden Ross Lipson.  This is a sweet little book about a family tradition of making apple sauce.  How the taste and color change throughout the season, and what to eat the applesauce with.  The illustrations are by Mordecai Gerstein, and are so lovely.  At the end there is a recipe for the apple sauce (although we had to remember lots of details from the book how the family makes the sauce – should we quarter the apples or cut them into sixths?)  We decided we were going to buy apples for applesauce and apple crisp.

Over the weekend, MC and I finally had a chance to try the recipe for the applesauce, and she loved trying out the food mill, making the cinnamon sugar, and noticing the coloring of the applesauce (it was pink from the skins!).  It was good for my soul to make applesauce with her, and whenever I need a slowdown, comforting snack, I’ve been grabbing the applesauce.  

The crisp did not make it past two days- I love it for breakfast. And lunch. And dinner. And dessert! 

Applesauce recipe: (modified from Applesauce Season)


Six pounds of apples (we used Winesap & Stayman) (They suggest using three different types at least)

2 cups of water

¼  cup cinnamon sugar

½ Tbsp butter

pinch of kosher salt


Wash & cut apples into sixths or eighths and place in a heavy saucepan.  Add liquid & cover.  Cook approximately 20 minutes over medium heat (until apples are soft).

Remove from heat, uncover.  Grind apples through a food mill placed over a large bowl.  Add butter, salt, cinnamon sugar. Bon appétit!

Apple Crisp recipe: (modified from thechunkychef.com)


6 apples, chopped (or sliced thin using a mandolin)
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 + 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon, divided
1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup old fashioned oats
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, diced into small cubes
pinch of kosher salt


Preheat oven to 350 F degrees.  

Grease an 8×8 baking dish. 

In a large bowl, add chopped apples, granulated sugar, 3/4 tsp of the cinnamon and lemon juice.  Stir to combine, then transfer to prepared baking dish.

In a separate (medium) mixing bowl, add topping ingredients (brown sugar, oats, flour, 1 tsp cinnamon, salt, and diced cold butter).  Cut the butter into the oat mixture, using a slight downward twisting motion, until mixture resembled pea-sized crumbs….or until you grow impatient and say, “Looks good enough!”

Spread topping over apples in baking dish.  

Bake 30-40 minutes, until the topping is golden brown and the apples are bubbling.

Bon appétit!